Chapter published in:Re-Assessing Modalising Expressions: Categories, co-text, and context
Edited by Pascal Hohaus and Rainer Schulze
[Studies in Language Companion Series 216] 2020
► pp. 79–108
Not just frequency, not just modality
Production and perception of English semi-modals
We review reduction and contraction in modalizing expressions of the type V-to-Vinf from the perspective of production, perception and mental representation. A corpus study of spoken American English shows reduction/contraction as a continuous process which is subject to phonological and communicative constraints. Generally, reduction (articulatory ease) is restricted by a tendency to retain cues to morphological structure (explicitness). For perception, a word-recognition experiment shows that listeners use probabilities to cope with reduction; reduction also promotes ‘chunking’, i.e. accessing frequent sequences as single units. The combined evidence suggests that ‘chunking’, reduction and contraction are not a self-propelled process, even given high frequency or semantic bleaching. Rather, they are subject to intuitive negotiations in speaker-hearer interaction. Methodologically, we make a case for triangulating corpus and experimental data.
Keywords: semi-modals, chunking, phonetic reduction, contraction, entrenchment
Published online: 12 November 2020
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